Brett Staahl and Benjamin Oakes

The lat­est Jen­nifer Doud­na start­up launch­es with a Bio­gen part­ner­ship and eyes on big tar­gets few CRISPR com­pa­nies have chased

Three years ago, Jen­nifer Doud­na gath­ered with two post­docs and a fel­low bio­chemist around a cir­cu­lar ta­ble on the sec­ond floor of UC Berke­ly’s En­er­gy Bio­sciences build­ing, where they tried to an­swer a ques­tion: What, pre­cise­ly, would the best gene ed­i­tor look like?

By that point, a slate of star­tups had launched to turn CRISPR-Cas9 in­to drugs, di­ag­nos­tics and crops. But re­searchers at Berke­ley and else­where were turn­ing up new en­zymes that were small­er, more ver­sa­tile than the orig­i­nal Cas9 – en­zymes that, if en­gi­neered cor­rect­ly, could solve some of the chal­lenges ear­ly CRISPR re­search had faced.  They de­cid­ed to take one of them, called CasX, and try to use it in an area that had long been black hole for both phar­ma and gene edit­ing — neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion.

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